With the widespread advantage and learning curve that the Internet provides, it has become a pre-requisite in every household. It does have an equally powerful potential to wreak havoc for children, too, with increasing reports of online child abuse, adult content sites, security threats and so on. For families, this could actually hamper a child’s development and nurturing and hence software that could help monitor Internet activities could be beneficial.
McAfee has come out with the McAfee Family Protection software that provides Internet activity monitoring. But is this software good enough to protect your child from all the objectionable content currently present on the Internet? Read on to find out.
McAfee's new Family Protection Software
The McAfee Family Protection software has a simple and easy-to-use interface with variable levels of user customization. Upon logging in as administrator, users are allowed to choose between four preset options of protection levels based on the age group. The available options are: children from zero to seven, pre-teens, teens and adults, with the level of protection being highest for the first and gradually lowering down.
User Log Chart
A complete family summary is charted out on the main screen that allows quick modification for all existing users that are being monitored. User customization for separate functions is available with individual tabs. For example, the Social Networking tab allows administrators an option to input personal information (like Street address, school name, cell phone) that needs to be monitored. Overall, it offers a very simplistic UI, which could prove helpful for novices.
The McAfee Family Protection software’s primary task is to block adult content, cyber bullying, contact with strangers and objectionable YouTube videos. In addition to that, it also offers social network monitoring, instant message reporting, email alerting and setting time limits. The software allows blocking of up to 35 categories of objectionable websites at a time, as well as recording instant messaging to inform administrators in the event of conversations with strangers. Chatting on social networking sites is also recorded in case of solicitation from strangers or posting of confidential information.
Settings and customizations
The software offers monitoring support for AOL, ICQ, Microsoft Windows Messenger and Yahoo Messenger. Currently, there is no option to supervise Google Chat or Skype. Security threats, most often found in peer-to-peer file sharing softwares can be blocked. Activity reports provide a complete view of all Internet and IM activity, which can be used as a tool to teach appropriate online behaviour. Along with the above options, the McAfee Family Protection software allows automated email reception in case access to an inappropriate website is attempted.
Upon installation, the software utilizes very little system resources (12 MB on the task manager) and requires an initial 10 MB of hard disk space. To start off, we created four different levels of monitoring based on age groups. The software worked brilliantly with the preset customizations that it provided. Email blocking, YouTube videos blocking, website filtering - all of it worked seamlessly. However, user customization started throwing up a few problems.
Extreme monitoring: YouTube blocked
Access to Gmail was blocked even after changing the option via the administrator’s profile. We tried another alternative: switching between users to check the speed of response of the software. The transition was slow as websites, which got unblocked took around a minute to load. This could be a downer for people wanting fast Internet access. Besides, the software started popping up a few annoying notifications at regular intervals. On the other hand, in case any user besides the administrator tries to initiate a log out from the session, internet access is cut off, unless the user logs in again. This provides for complete parental control.
The McAfee Family Protection Plan is available at Rs. 2,270 with support for up to 3 PCs. The price could be a little steep for home users as it does not include any antivirus or firewall for protection from viruses. So, most users will have to purchase a separate antivirus software, which could cost a few extra thousand bucks. It might be a little on the expensive side, but if monitoring content is a priority, this product could well be worth considering.
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